Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tories still planning "intensity" targets

The Tories are still planning to bamboozle us with "intensity targets", according to a draft climate change plan obtained by the Globe and Mail. The article says:

The leaked government documents were analyzed for The Globe by two environmentalists: Louise Comeau of the Sage Foundation, who provided policy advice to the Liberal government for Mr. Dion's 2005 plan, and Matthew Bramley of the Pembina Institute, who recently released a proposal that would see oil sands companies comply with Kyoto by adding about $1 to the production cost of each barrel of oil.

"The federal government's proposal for industry regulation on greenhouse gases is a fraud," Ms. Comeau said. "Fabricating numbers so the current government's intensity approach looks better than the last government's intensity approach is no more acceptable today than it was two years ago. Intensity targets are dishonest. The time to regulate real reductions is now."

Now compare this approach, with what top scientists say is really needed:

Governments must pour tens of billions of dollars more than they are into clean energy research and enforce sharp rollback's in fossil fuel emissions if the world is to head off the worst of climate change, an expert scientific panel told the United Nations on Tuesday.

They said global carbon dioxide emissions should be levelled off by 2015-2020, and then cut back to less than one-third that level by 2100 - via a vast transformation of global energy systems toward greater efficiency and away from fossil fuels and toward biofuels, solar and wind energy and other renewable sources of energy.

That changeover would be spurred by heavy "carbon taxes" or "cap-and-trade" systems, whereby industries' emissions are capped by governments, and more efficient companies can sell unused allowances to less efficient ones.

Obviously, intensity targets will not achieve this, and Baird has rejected both a carbon tax and an emissions trading system.

All Harper cares about is getting re-elected with a majority. So, they'll try to "greenwash" us with a plan that does nothing, and then buy our votes with our own money (i.e. more tax cuts). The question is - are we dumb enough to fall for it?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Real men - and women - don't like global warming

Even the National Post may be waking up to the fact that outdoor hockey rinks may someday be just a fond memory. In this piece titled A meditation on ice, Mark Spector writes about how "the outdoor rink is slowly melting from the consciousness of the Canadian man".

How many of the major Canadian cities can even keep an outdoor rink frozen any more, the way the weather has changed? Are we dependent on Kyoto to restore what was once an intrinsic, vital part of growing up in Canada?

Despite the chauvinist attitude in this article (hey, women play hockey too - sometimes better than the men!), I find this heartening. Perhaps, one day, the Post will figure out that we really do need to act to stop climate change - and save our outdoor rinks too.

I was happy to see that our local park managed to create an outdoor rink this year - although it wasn't until February. I'm sure the lifespan of these rinks is much shorter than it used to be. Although I've never played hockey, I have fond memories of helping my Dad create a small skating rink in our backyard. We had a blast back then.

The Hockey Pond
Just for fun, here's a short video showing the future of outdoor hockey in a climate-changed world (found on BeSustainable.com).

Comments from the YouTube post:
Today, February 16, 2007, is the second anniversary of Canada's Kyoto Promise, finds ordinary Canadians tired of political rhetoric and keen for true action. "It's not right to have open water in my hockey pond" says Arni Mikelsons, a resident of Guelph Ontario Canada, "I want action by my government. Cut the high sticking and honour Canada's Kyoto Promise."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

If you were Prime Minister...

David Suzuki has a quick and easy way to tell the PM and other party leaders what YOU would do if you were the Prime Minister.

You can also see what other people wrote. Here's what I wrote:

If I were Prime Minister...

I would stop the bickering in the House, and work with all of the parties to come up with a climate change action plan as soon as possible.

We don't have time to wait. We must act now!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The denialists are still at work

In a column in the Winnipeg Sun (found on CNews), Tom Brodbeck states that there are "many credible scientists with alternative views" on climate change. He gives two examples. The problem is that both of them are connected to energy industry lobbyists:

Brodbeck says: "Tim Patterson is an earth sciences professor at Carlton University in Ottawa. He says he doesn't accept the idea that man-made greenhouse gases are causing the Earth to warm."

According to deSmogBlog, Dr. Patterson is connected to the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, who's stated purpose on their web site is to "Have a measurable impact on the public's understanding of climate change, with a target of significantly lessening support for implementation of CO2 controls."

This group was apparently created by many of the former Friends of Science, and is controlled by energy industry lobbyists.

His other "find" is Dr. Madhav Khandekar, who is also apparently connected with the NRSP, and who finds the IPCC report to be "a bit too simplistic".

Again, deSmogBlog says that Dr. Khandekar is an " expert adviser and contributor to oil backed spin machine Envirotruth".

Mr. Brodbeck rejects the words of David Suzuki, as if he was just some crank, and doesn't seem to consider the overwhelming majority of IPCC scientists to be worthy of his time. Instead he would have us spend more time listening to these guys. Well, if they have evidence that the climate is not changing, or that we are not responsible - let's hear it. I certainly didn't find any in this column. And let's have full disclosure of their affiliations and funding sources as well.

Halving Our Electricity Use from 2005 to 2007 - The Graph

In an earlier comment on this blog, LNeumann has mentioned that "We have already decreased our electricity use from last year...." Here's the proof, taken directly from our last utility bill with the local Hydro company (our next bill should be coming from Bullfrog Power). The most recent data is shown on the left, and the oldest data is on the right in this graph.

Arguably, the Jul-05 and Sep-05 spikes (and the smaller ones in Jan-06 and Mar-06) are exceptions to an overall declining trend in electricity use. As I mentioned previously, we have adjusted the thermostat to reduce summer-time air conditioning. In the winter, our house is heated with a forced-air gas furnace. But with less daylight, electricity savings from using Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL) may be more noticeable than in the summer. The bottom line is that these and other efforts (such as not using our electric clothes dryer as often, and reducing electricity leaks) are paying off!

Unfortunately, our water use has remained almost unchanged, so we will focus more attention to conserving water in coming months.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Electric Cars - Ontario, Canada vs. Ontario, California

Contrary to recent reports, the electric car is not dead. Never mind concept cars like GM's Chevy Volt, with their undefined production times. Smaller car makers are almost done road-testing actual prototypes. They are poised to start shipping breakthrough electric vehicles in 2007-2008. Even more revolutionary electric car technology is on the horizon. Some governments around the world are waking up to the economic opportunities. But are Ontario's car industry and its government backers doing anything to get on board?

"Ontario is North America's 2nd largest motor vehicle assembler, after Michigan" (Source: Government of Ontario, Canada). Many thousands of jobs and billions of dollars are at stake in this industry in Ontario, Canada -- but it also happens to produce one of the most visible sources of greenhouse gas emissions, smog and other hazards. Sadly, it seems that many of the players in the industry remain mired in the past, instead of taking a bold, imaginative approach to help ensure a technology lead. Usually, it is the car companies that object to any mandatory emissions rules. More recently, it was the turn of the Canadian Auto Workers Union (CAW):
"Canada's largest private sector union said on Thursday that thousands of jobs in the auto industry could be at risk if a left-leaning opposition party [the NDP] succeeds in persuading the government to quickly introduce binding emissions standards on vehicles. " (Story: Reuters via ENN. Original CAW Press Release, January 11, 2007 [corrected link].)
It seems to me that we have a choice between fighting the future or embracing it. We can be dragged into the new era of green vehicles kicking and screaming, or we can take the lead while we still have time. For example, is there a single hybrid car being built in Ontario, Canada? As far as I know, the Ford Edge small SUV (Crossover), assembled in Oakville, Ontario, would be the first one. It is scheduled to have a hybrid version sometime in the "2008 to 2010 time period" (Source: Ford Motor Co.).

Meanwhile, in Ontario, California, Phoenix Motorcars is already taking orders for a new all-electric (not hybrid!) Sports Utility Truck, with an all electric SUV to follow in "late 2007" (Source: Phoenix Motorcars). The vehicles reach "95 mph [153 km/h] carrying five passengers and full payload". They go from "0 to 60 mph [97 km/h] in 10 seconds" (Source). And unlike previous generations of electric vehicles, this one will go the distance:
"The range is approximately 130 miles [209 km] ... currently working on an expansion pack extending the range to 250 miles [402 km], available in 2007" (Source).
By the time the industry in Ontario, Canada turns around to make vehicles like this, would California upstarts like Phoenix Motorcars own the market?

Another California-based contender is also ramping up: Tesla Motors has developed a super-premium all-electric sports car (the Tesla Roadster), with funding and support from an all-star cast of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. They claim to have pre-sold their very first production run of 200+ cars for delivery in 2007 -- priced at US $92,000 each!

Tesla Motors has recently announced plans for a 4-door all-electric coupe car to go into production in 2009. After musing on locating facilities in various places (the reported list did not include Ontario, Canada), they opened a Technical Center in Rochester Hills, Michigan (Source).

Curiously, there is already an electric car company with headquarters in Ontario, Canada: Feel Good Cars (also known as ZENN Motor Co. or ZMC) They make the ZENN, a small, two-seater Neighbourhood Electric Vehicle or NEV, with a speed limit of 40 Km/h (Specifications). It won the 2006 Michelin Challenge Bibendum gold medal in the Urban Vehicle category (Press Release in PDF). Actual assembly takes place in Quebec, but this seems to be the closest we have come to having our own electric car industry.

The ZENN may be small, but its makers dream big:
"It is Feel Good Cars' vision to become the worldwide leader in the electric vehicle industry."
Part of their big strategy has been revealed recently: they are betting on what would be a stunning breakthrough in electricity storage. (Also known as "the battery issue", or "travel range before recharging", this had been the biggest problems facing electric cars for almost a century.) The claimed breakthrough is an electric super-capacitor from Texas-based start-up EESTOR, Inc., which reportedly
"...contains no hazardous materials whatsoever. Yet it acts like a battery in that it stores electricity. If it works as it's supposed to, it will charge up in five minutes and provide enough energy to drive 500 miles [805 km] on about $9 worth of electricity."
And unlike today's batteries, this device would be "recharged in a matter of minutes" -- according to Feel Good Cars. Moreover, Ian Clifford, the CEO of Feel Good Cars, predicts that using this technology,
"A four-passenger sedan will drive like a Ferrari."
Four-passenger car? Drive like a Ferrari? Ambitious words for somebody who now makes only slow two-seaters! But according to a Press Release (PDF),
"Under its Technology Agreement with EEStor, Inc., ZMC holds the worldwide exclusive license for EEStors batteries for small and medium-sized vehicles (up to 1,400 kgs curb weight). The Technology Agreement is in good standing.

"ZENN Motor Company continues to enhance and market its current Low Speed Electric Vehicle product using existing lead-acid battery technology. We have the expertise and capability to integrate EEStor technology into our existing and future vehicles should the EEStor batteries become available says Mike Bergeron, VP of Engineering for ZENN Motor Company."
So apparently, an Ontario, Canada company holds a world-exclusive license to use a "...power source... that could blow away the combustion engine" (source) -- "for small and medium-sized vehicles".

Still, there is no indication yet of when they hope to produce a regular-sized electric car that would be "street legal" regardless of speed limit -- never mind "drive like a Ferrari". And there is no word on what they would do if the EESTOR technology does not live up to its promise.

Meanwhile, the California electric car industry is ramping up production based on conventional or modified Lithium-Ion batteries.

Governments and leaders in other countries are starting to court future electric car producers. A Chinese government fund has recently signed a deal to make the French Cleanova II electric vehicle in Inner Mongolia, Northern China (Source in French, English translation by Google). This car's engine is made by a Canadian company, TM4, a subsidiary of Hydro Quebec (Source in PDF). More recently, Israeli Vice-Premier and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Shimon Peres went to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland to talk to Renault (supplier of the Kangoo base vehicle for the Cleanova II testing program) and Toyota about making future electric cars or batteries in Israel (Source).

But is any of this even on the radar screens of the mainstream car industry in Ontario, Canada? Do the Provincial and Federal Governments who had long supported (read, subsidized) this mainstream industry have any clue about the coming electric car revolution?